Retail employees are ‘just doing their jobs’ yet more than 85% encounter abuse at work
Retail employees in Australia are standing up against abuse from shoppers who confront them over store policies: remind customers they are someone’s mother, father, son or daughter.
Workers from Woolworths, Target and other retailers wear a secondary badge that identifies them as someone’s family member so customers would treat them with courtesy even during a dispute.
In a viral video posted on TikTok, Woolworths employee Dakota Rae Shaw explained that the concept behind her badge – which says, “I’m a daughter” – was for people to imagine how they would relate to her “if it was their daughter they were speaking to”.
As stores worldwide implemented face mask policies to curb the spread of COVID-19, there have been numerous encounters between irate customers and retail employees about the need to wear face coverings inside store premises.
But retail employees are “just doing their jobs,” Shaw told her social media followers.
In Australia, there was a “significant spike” in abusive customer behaviour as people began panic-buying during the initial lockdown, said Bernie Smith, NSW secretary of the union Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA).
The union first handed out additional badges to members in 2019 as part of its “No One Deserves a Serve” initiative to combat abuse.
“The idea of the badges is to humanise the person behind the counter, so the customer sees them as a person rather than somebody processing their sale,” Smith told Yahoo News. “The badges make people think twice.”
SDA estimates more than 85% of retail workers are subjected to verbal and physical abuse from customers. “This abuse impacts their physical and psychological health, with ripples felt across all aspects of their life,” the union said.
Since the introduction of the secondary badge, however, there has been a 44% decline in the number of incidents involving irate customers, SDA said.